Protesters stop Kinder Morgan survey work on possible mountain route of pipeline

BURNABY, B.C. – Angry protesters stopped crews from conducting pipeline survey work on Burnaby Mountain Wednesday, forcing the company to reassess how it will finish work needed for a National Energy Board decision.

RCMP officers watched as some protesters confronted a Trans Mountain survey crew, yelling “go back to Texas,” while another protester crawled under a survey crew’s SUV, wrapped himself around the front tire and refused to leave.

Stephen Collis, a spokesman for the protesters who call themselves the Caretakers, said they plan to hunker down.

“We’re currently occupying the space that they have identified that they need to work in. Since we’re on public land, we have every right to be here,” he said. “They can’t really work in a space that’s filled with dozens of people. That’s the intention.”

The plan worked, at least for the day.

Workers left in another vehicle, and one man carried several signs under his arm that read No Entry Until Further Notice and Field Testing Area Under Order of the National Energy Board.

Greg Toth, senior director for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project, said all survey work on the mountain was stopped, although other crews were still working around Burnaby.

He wasn’t yet sure if the company would ask for an injunction preventing protests.

“We have to reassess, based on today’s activities,” said Toth. “It’s quite a vocal protest. Our priority is the safety of our crews and the general public. So we’ll retrench and look at what options are available.”

The demonstration comes in the midst of a bitter battle over the company’s plans to expand the pipeline through Burnaby.

The National Energy Board granted Trans Mountain access to the sites so it can complete work through Burnaby Mountain, it’s preferred route for the pipeline. The NEB ruled the City of Burnaby can’t prevent the activity because the work is needed for the board to make a decision on the expansion application.

The City of Burnaby announced it will appeal the NEB ruling.

Mayor Derek Corrigan said he didn’t believe the regulator has the authority to consider constitutional questions concerning city bylaws.

Toth said the National Energy Board and the Federal Court have given the company every right to do work needed to support the decision-making process.

He said it’s ironic that crews haven’t been allowed on Burnaby Mountain, considering the company and city residents have determined the route is the least disruptive option.

“It’s really in response to strong feedback from the local residents and the general public in the area for the alternative routing, which would have been through the streets,” he said.

In July 2007, a geyser of oil covered more 100 homes, after a crew accidentally pulled up the pipeline, spilling 250,000 litres.

The cleanup cost about $15 million.

The 5.4-billion dollar expansion plan would come close to tripling the capacity of the existing pipeline between Alberta and B.C. to about 900,000 barrels of crude a day.